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News on the Lawyers and Legal Professionals of Texas
Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

Austin attorney Joe K. Longley elected State Bar president-elect

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 18:42

Texas attorneys have elected Joe K. Longley of Austin as the 2017-2018 president-elect of the State Bar of Texas.

The result comes after a May 11-25 runoff election between Longley and Chad Baruch of Dallas after they were the top two vote-getters in a month-long, three-way race for the position that ended May 2.

Read the news release for more results.

Make a difference: Volunteer attorneys sought to help with pro bono legal advice website

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 16:07

TexasLegalAnswers.org, debuting June 1, will operate as a free, online legal advice clinic for low-income Texans, and volunteer attorneys are needed to help answer their questions.

The site will allow individuals who meet certain financial guidelines and who need basic legal guidance to log on, post questions, and have them answered by volunteer attorneys across the state. Individuals with complex legal matters will be referred to legal aid agencies for more in-depth assistance.

Attorneys interested in volunteering with Texas Legal Answers can visit TexasLegalAnswers.org to learn more and sign up under the Volunteer Attorney Registration tab.

The online Q&A style of Texas Legal Answers will ensure that individuals in rural communities who lack transportation can still receive assistance. It will also enable attorneys who have a desire to help to do so without hours of commitment at an in-person clinic.

Texas Legal Answers is administered by the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division as part of a nationwide project of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. As part of the program, the ABA offers malpractice insurance for all volunteer attorneys who participate.

To date more than 32 states have rolled out state-specific Legal Answers web pages. Other states have seen significant responses to the free legal advice sites. For example, a model site in Tennessee has received more than 10,000 legal questions in just a few years of service.

5 Myths About Legal Insurance BUSTED

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 23:01

If you’re not quite sure what legal insurance is, you’re not alone. At ARAG, we deal with misconceptions attorneys and others in the legal industry have about what we do all the time. We want to bust the five most common myths we hear about legal insurance so that you can see how it might be able to benefit you and your firm.

Myth #1: It’s malpractice insurance for attorneys. Legal insurance helps improve access and affordability of attorneys for people dealing with legal issues just like health insurance helps improve access and affordability of doctors for those dealing with medical issues. Attorneys who join a legal insurance network are connected with plan members to help with both proactive and reactive legal needs, similar to doctors on a health care PPO network. Legal insurance is for anyone who is going to be dealing with legal issues in their life – and attorneys know that’s basically everyone at one point or another.

Myth #2: Legal insurance is basically the same as prepaid legal. The phrase “prepaid legal” calls to mind limits and restrictions – only a few hours’ worth of attorney fees are covered, or the people using the service only need one contract done or want to talk to an attorney once over the phone. Legal insurance provides comprehensive coverage for more than one hundred legal issues and additional services at a discounted rate. Plan members use attorneys’ services regularly (not just once) and attorneys are compensated by ARAG for covered services they provide. Plus, because insurance is a regulated industry, attorneys and clients can rely on the highest standards of service, ethics and accountability.

Myth #3: There are fees to join. No, there is no fee for an attorney to become an ARAG Network Attorney. Attorneys who join ARAG’s network do agree to a set fee structure, but attorneys on the network see the increased referrals and payment they receive being worth the discounted rate.  And although an attorney can terminate his or her relationship with ARAG at any time, we have a nearly 95 percent retention rate for attorneys on our network[1].

Myth #4: Legal insurance plan members are bad clients. Some people who need attorneys have a “one-and-done mentality,” but people with legal insurance are more likely to establish an ongoing relationship with attorneys and use them for future services. In fact, more than 90 percent of people with legal insurance are more likely to consult with their ARAG attorney as situations arise (as compared to if they didn’t have legal insurance).[2]

Myth #5: Being part of a legal insurance network won’t drive revenue. Attorneys have told us that they do see an impact on their business after joining ARAG. For example, ARAG Attorney John Wachsmann of Denver, Colorado, states, “It’s been tremendous for our bottom line. It’s clients we would not have had otherwise and if we do a good job for them, we’ve had referrals from those clients for other non-plan clients.” Client feedback supports this: 88 percent of ARAG plan members say they are likely to refer ARAG network attorneys to their family and friends.2

After reading these mythbusters, are you interested in learning more about how legal insurance can help you and your practice gain more clients and increase your revenue? Visit ARAG for more details about benefits of joining the ARAG Network or contact us directly at:  866-272-4529, ext. 3.

About Jean: Jean Clauson is the Network Development Manager at ARAG, a global leader in legal insurance. Jean works to build awareness of ARAG in the legal industry and develop the ARAG Attorney Network. Jean also serves as President of Group Legal Services Association (GLSA).

[1] 2016 ARAG Attorney Relations Data.

[2] 2016 ARAG Plan Member Satisfaction Survey.

Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program names new director

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 14:09

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program has named Michelle Alden its new director, the Dallas Bar Association announced Friday.

Alden, a 10-year employee of the program, succeeds Alicia E. Hernandez who took over as executive director of the Dallas Bar Association in January.

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program is a joint initiative of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and is dedicated to increasing and enhancing pro bono legal services for the poor in Dallas through the recruitment, training, and support of volunteer attorneys.

Read more about the announcement on the Dallas Bar Association website.

Beck Redden partner to serve as new Houston Bar Association president

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 14:05

Alistair B. Dawson is now the 2017-2018 president of the Houston Bar Association, officials announced Friday.

Dawson, a partner in Beck Redden who has been a part of the HBA Board of Directors since 2009, succeeds Neil Kelly of Andrews Kurth Kenyon.

“I am honored and excited to be the HBA president this year, and I consider it a distinct privilege to be the leader of this wonderful organization,” Dawson said in a news release from his firm. “I look forward with great anticipation to all that we will accomplish this year.”

During his term, Dawson plans to implement programs to help students and workers with special needs.

Read more about the announcement on the HBA’s website.

Discounts for Father’s Day and graduations

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 08:00

Fun, food or function—find the perfect gift for the beloved dad or grad in your life! Your Beneplace discount website has great deals on bikes, gift cards, bags and more. Whether you’re setting up a grad for the next phase in their life or making your dad smile, you’ll save on a variety of products and services that make great gifts.

Give your grad the gift of mobility! Save 40% on performance bicycles from Diamondback and Raleigh— you’ll find the right bike for any rider, whether they’re a serious cyclist, just starting out, or somewhere in between.

Restaurant gift cards are a great way to treat your dad or grad. Restaurant.com has over 500,000 deals on eGift cards to restaurants around the country, or you can save 8% on gift cards from Applebee’s and IHOP.

Treat your loved one to the concert experience of a lifetime! Save 10% on tickets to their favorite band or artist, plus browse VIP packages with Premium Seats. Maybe dad would love a thoughtful framed photo or personalized mug from Personal Creations, where you save 20% on gifts you can customize.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Texas welcomes its newest lawyers to the bar at a swearing-in ceremony

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:48

On Monday a new group of Texas lawyers was sworn in at the New Lawyers Induction Ceremony.

Friends and family gathered at the Erwin Center along with representatives from the State Bar of Texas, the state’s law schools, the Texas Board of Law Examiners, and members of the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to welcome hundreds of law schools grads to the Texas bar.

State Bar President Frank Stevenson addressed the crowd, noting that in Massachusetts, new attorneys sign a book after being sworn in, adding their names to a centuries-old list that includes prominent figures such as John Adams.

“Even if you today don’t sign one in the material sense, you sign one in every sense that matters. And that process will place you in a relationship with John Adams, yes, but also with Abraham Lincoln, Thurgood Marshall, the judges on this stage, your deans, professors, and every lawyer that came before you and every lawyer who will come after you,” Stevenson said.

This year there were two high scorers of the Texas Bar Exam—Michelle Justine Haws, of South Texas College of Law Houston, and Clinton J. Kuykendall, of SMU Dedman School of Law— and they both expressed thanks to their families, friends, and law schools.

“I don’t have any profound advice or earth-shattering nuggets of wisdom to share with you here to today, but the one thing I do have a lot of is gratitude,” Haws said. “Of course, like everyone else, I’m very grateful to have passed the bar exam and all the opportunities that are going to be available to me as a licensed attorney.

Kuykendall expressed his thanks and then congratulated the newest attorneys on not only passing their bar exams, but for their undergraduate degrees, law degrees, and other accomplishments earned throughout their education.

“Today we get to celebrate this accomplishment together,” he said.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht administered the New Lawyer’s Oath, making note of the new civility clause.

“I charge you to recall, in all of your practice, the words of the oath you take today.”

View more photos of the ceremony on the State Bar of Texas’ Flickr page.

Stories of Recovery: Too Young Not to Quit!

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 07:00

Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at (800) 343-8527 and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

I went to my first AA meeting at the age of 22 because I was flunking out of college.

The dean was kind enough to call my parents and warn them that I ran the risk of getting kicked out of the program due to my grades and failure to appear for class. I went to 10 or 15 AA meetings in Austin, but, at that time, I thought it was a cult; there was no reason for me to be part of this.

In spite of the fact I had been skipping class for weeks on end, getting my notes from note-taking services, and drinking at bars nightly until 2 in the morning, I still didn’t see how alcohol had anything to do with my problems. I decided I would quit drinking on my own and see what happened.  

I finished college and started law school without taking another drink of alcohol. However, in my mind, the dramatic improvement in my grades was due to my deciding to take life seriously. I was simply deciding to apply myself to school and study so that I could get into law school.

While in law school, I didn’t drink for the first two years. I was in the top third of my class, was class president, and was fortunate enough to be there on a scholarship. I decided to take a position as a summer associate with two large law firms.

At first, I didn’t drink. But given the parties and dinners and happy hour festivities that went on with this clerkship, I ended up drinking to fit in with the others. That summer, I drank heavier than I had ever drunk in my life. Every night, I was drinking well past drunkenness and making a fool of myself at almost every firm function.

I continued drinking heavily during my last year of law school until the bar exam, quitting about three or four weeks before the exam, thinking that it would help me focus by not going out and shooting pool or going to bars with my friends. I passed the exam and got a job with a very small plaintiffs’ firm back home and, luckily for me, my boss liked to drink as much as I did.

There was a liquor store across the street from our office and we would flip coins to see who would buy the 12-pack that day. At about 4 p.m. on almost every workday, he and I would sit outside, drink beer, and attempt to get some work done. Of course, we didn’t.

I still didn’t think I had a drinking problem, although I was drinking six to nine beers a day and then smoking pot at night. I convinced myself that I was in a high-stress field and deserved to drink in order to wind down after a tough day.

Also, I didn’t like being a lawyer, as it was nothing like I had imagined it would be. I wasn’t making the kind of money I had hoped to make, I didn’t have the power or prestige that I thought I deserved, and, basically, it just sucked to be a lawyer. Looking back on it now, I have no doubt that I was drinking alcoholically at that time. However, I was still functional enough to go to work, my wife hadn’t threatened to leave me yet, and, therefore, why should I stop?

A couple of years out of law school, a friend of mine came to me with a bag full of prescription drugs that his mother had been taking before she died. He knew I had some medical training and wanted to know what I thought he should do with all those medications. I graciously offered to go through them for him and throw out what needed to be thrown out. In the bag were a number of chemotherapy agents, which I threw out, and a full bottle of Lortab 7.5 (aka Vicodin, aka hydrocodone, an opioid narcotic). I kept those for me.

That night, I convinced myself that I had a severe enough headache to take a Lortab before I went to bed. For the next month, I had the same headache every night, necessitating another Lortab. For whatever reason, be it genetic or psychological, Lortab was the answer to all my problems. After taking it, I felt great. I felt no pain. Cigarettes tasted better, beer tasted better, and I thought I was happier and more relaxed than I had ever been in my life.

For most of my life I have been an intense and moody person, and somewhat hyper in my demeanor. I was always joking around with people, acting as if life was great and that I thought I was the life of all parties. However, inside, I was depressed and unhappy with everything going on around me. I had a beautiful wife who loved me very much, I was just starting a good career, I had my health, and I had family members who loved and supported me. However, I still felt that life simply sucked.

Lortab filled the void I felt in my life. After taking just one a day for the first month or so, I moved up to two a day, three a day, and, before I knew it, I had gone through the three refills remaining on the prescription. When I ran out of refills, I started going to doctors I knew, making up symptoms such as pain or a severe cough so that they would prescribe to me something containing hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Lortab.

I spent all day at work thinking about how I could get my hands on more Lortab. Eventually, my habit got to 30 tablets a day. This pattern continued for the next two years, with my habit eventually reaching 50 tablets a day, taking 10 at a time every six hours or so. If I ever ran out, I would go into horrible withdrawals, with diarrhea, my legs shaking uncontrollably, my nose running, and being unable to sleep or think straight until I either got more drugs or until a week or two had passed.

I got fired by my law firm because I was arrested for DWI after being caught weaving on the road during office hours due to taking so many narcotics. I was smoking pot daily and, when I couldn’t find or get my hands on any drugs, I would stoop to drinking beer in my car to help control the shakes. I was 29 years old.

My wife and family had no idea what was wrong with me. They thought I was suffering from some horrible depression and that I was just overworked. I would fall asleep at restaurants no matter how much coffee I drank, and I would fall asleep smoking cigarettes on my couch.

Eventually, at the insistence of my wife and family, I went to see a psychologist who told me he thought I was depressed. Of course I didn’t tell him about the drugs and alcohol because, although I knew I was taking way too many drugs, I just knew I could quit any time I really wanted.

The charade with the psychologist went on for about six months when I finally “fessed up” to my family. That afternoon, I was on a plane to a treatment center that deals with professionals with drug and/or alcohol problems.

After many months in treatment, and literally hundreds and hundreds of AA meetings, I can honestly say that I am happy with my life. I am still married to the same beautiful wife; I have a gorgeous daughter that, God willing, will never see me drunk or high; my family still loves me; and I have a wonderful job with a great law firm.

I love life, and believe it or not, I love practicing law. I have learned that the problem was not the practice of law, but the way I was practicing law. For so many years I bought into my own lies and felt that I was powerful enough to control or fix any problem that got in my way, including drugs and alcohol. Despite the trips to the ER, the constant fear of getting arrested, and my total dependence on alcohol and drugs, I still thought I had the power. It seems like a miracle that I finally came to admit that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable.

I don’t regret anything I had to go through to get me where I am today. As a clean and sober individual, I have had to face and assume responsibility for the many negative consequences created by my past and I am sorry for all the wreckage I have left behind. However, today I am truly happy with life, and feel that every day without drugs and alcohol is a blessing.

I used to think that living without drugs and alcohol would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to me, but it has been the best. I regularly attend AA meetings to continue to learn a new way to live and am an active volunteer for both the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP), and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL), a statewide support group for lawyers in recovery from drug, alcohol, or mental health problems.

If you or some other attorney you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol, please remember this: There is hope and there is help. TLAP and LCL are just two of the many places that can help you get started on the road to recovery.

Believe me, if I can get clean and sober, so can you. What are you waiting for?

Originally published in the Texas Bar Journal, March 1998.

San Antonio Bar Association names new executive director

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:42

The San Antonio Bar Association has named June Morse Moynihan as its new executive director, the organization announced Tuesday.

Moynihan, who was serving as assistant executive director, has worked for the bar association for more than two years, previously serving as membership director and director of the San Antonio Bar Foundation.

“It’s an exciting change for the San Antonio Bar,” bar association President Bobby Barrera said in a press release. “The board and I are delighted to welcome June’s vision to center stage. We have been continuously impressed with her skillset, and I’m confident in her abilities to continue strengthening our bar in the years to come.”

Read more about the announcement on the bar association’s website.

Texas House passes State Bar Sunset bill

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:33

The Texas House voted, 125-21, on Tuesday to pass the State Bar of Texas Sunset bill, SB 302.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously on April 4. It now heads back to the Senate for concurrence or a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.

The bill retains the rules referendum vote of State Bar members and would require a referendum in cases where a dues increase of more than 10 percent is proposed in a six-year period.

The House added an amendment that would limit the original Sunset Commission recommendation that the State Bar be required to conduct fingerprint-based criminal background checks for Texas attorneys to disclose criminal activity triggering compulsory discipline. The House amendment would apply the provision going forward.

The Board of Law Examiners already obtains fingerprint-based criminal history information for bar examinees. Under the amendment, the State Bar would have access to that information going forward. Fingerprints would not be required for those already licensed.

The House added additional amendments to require the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel to report statistics and other information on barratry as well as to require that disposition data be reported by race and gender. Other amendments would modify the bill’s subpoena provision and instruct the Supreme Court to ensure that rules for admission and practice do not limit, hinder, disadvantage, or otherwise adversely affect a person’s admission to the practice of law on the basis of the person’s deeply held religious beliefs.

If finally approved, SB 302 would continue the State Bar for 12 years. Other provisions include:

  • making various enhancements to the grievance process, including new investigative tools, sanction guidelines, and greater opportunity for earlier resolution of complaints;
  • creating an independent ombudsman to answer questions from those seeking to file grievances and to ensure that the system is working;
  • requiring the State Bar to post more data on its website about attorney disciplinary actions; and
  • maximizing the use of the informal dispute resolution program in the grievance system.

To follow developments on these and other bills affecting the legal profession, sign up for the State Bar of Texas Friday Update e-newsletter by filling out this online form.

San Antonio federal judge to receive CLE award from State Bar

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:49

San Antonio federal judge Xavier Rodriguez has been named as the recipient of a State Bar of Texas award that recognizes long-term contributions to continuing legal education.

Rodriguez, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, will receive the 2017 Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in CLE at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in June in Dallas.

A former justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Rodriguez currently serves as chair of the State Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee.

Individuals are nominated for the award by the State Bar Board of Directors, CLE Committee members, and past award recipients.

The award—established in 1989—is named for the founder of the Professional Development Program, who lifted the level of practice in the state during his tenure from 1964 to 1987.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Galveston

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:12

The Galveston County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are sponsoring a free legal clinic for veterans on Saturday, May 20, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Veterans and spouses will receive one-on-one advice and counsel from volunteer attorneys in family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate and tax law, and disability and veterans benefits.

Pro bono attorneys from the Houston Volunteer Lawyers may be assigned to veterans in need of ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid.

No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will be held at the Galveston VA Outpatient Clinic, 3828 N. Ave., Galveston, 77550.

For more information, go to hba.org or call (713) 759-1133.

Bastrop bar association play raises money for scholarships

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 15:17

Local lawyers and judges took their talents to the stage last month as a part of the Bastrop County Bar Association’s annual theatrical fundraiser.

The Cedar Creek Shootout: State of Texas vs. Orange W. Wicks was a historically accurate three-act play based on an 1889 murder case, in which the first black justice of the peace in Bastrop County was charged and later convicted following a shootout outside his courtroom that left two black men and two white men dead.

This was the fourth year David F. Bragg, an attorney and past president of the Bastrop County Bar Association, penned the script for the play.

Using research from historical records, Bragg writes the first three scenes of the production, then hands over a list of the facts of the case to the actors and let the prosecution, judge, and witnesses come up with their own questions, answers, and dialogue—modeling the process after learning experiences he had while a student at Baylor Law School.

In the three showings on April 28-30 of The Cedar Creek Shootout, the performers—including Hon. Christopher Duggan of the 423rd Judicial District Court in Bastrop County, local attorney Ernie Bogart, and attorney and Bastrop County Bar Association Vice President Bryan McDaniel, among others—acted out grand jury proceedings related to the 19th century case. The twist? The audience members served as the jurors.

After the presentation of the shaky evidence, attendees at the April 28 performance were unanimous: no indictment against the defendant, Wicks.

With proceeds from the dinner theater performances, the bar association plans to give $2,000 scholarships to five area students, $1,000 before their first years of college and $1,000 prior to their second, Bastrop County Bar Association President Caroline A. McClimon said.

Top, from left: Retired attorney Sam Damon, attorney and Bastrop County Bar Association member Ernie Bogart, and former Bastrop City Councilman Dock Jackson perform during the April 28 play.

Bottom: Hon. Christopher Duggan, judge of the 423rd Judicial District Court, speaks during the performance.

America Ranks 94th Worldwide in Civil Justice: Attorneys and the Legal Insurance Industry Are Partnering to Improve Access and Affordability

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 23:01

I’ve learned a lot this past year as I traveled across the country meeting with state bar associations and legal industry leaders, but one thing stood out as a reoccurring theme: Many of us in the legal community are passionate about providing all Americans access to affordable legal services.

We are not okay with the fact that the United States of America, which prides itself as a leading proponent of liberty and justice around the globe, tied for 94th place out of 113 countries in terms of accessibility and affordability of civil justice in 2016. We rank below countries like Mexico, Turkey, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan and Bolivia.

One thing many countries that rank in the top 10 for access to affordable civil justice, including Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, have in common? They are countries that support and promote legal insurance.

Legal insurance is an ideal solution that connects attorneys with people who need their services (and might not otherwise use them). People pay a small monthly premium for the insurance and then when they need legal assistance, the insurance company connects them with attorneys in their area and, for covered matters, pays the attorney fees. We champion attorneys as key players in bridging the justice gap – we aren’t trying to replace them. As lawyer and leading legal tech consultant Robert Ambrogi said, “One very clear strength of legal insurance is that it is a solution that involves lawyers. It enables consumers to get legal services from qualified lawyers at prices they are more likely to afford.”[1]

Legal insurance providers are working with attorneys to improve:

  • Awareness. The most commonly cited reason people don’t use an attorney is that they didn’t see a need for legal advice or an attorney wouldn’t make a difference. People need to be educated that many issues they encounter are legal matters that could benefit from an attorney’s guidance.
  • Access. Legal insurance, as the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services put it, “provides an efficient mechanism for matching clients in need of services with lawyers.”[2] We use technology to make legal services accessible where people want them — online, over the phone, on mobile devices and in person.
  • Affordability. Cost is clearly a factor for people seeking legal remedies, and it prevents more people from resolving their issues faster and more successfully. We have found that people with legal insurance are more likely to use an attorney proactively because legal services are more affordable for them.
  • Customer Service. Georgetown’s 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market found that “clients are demanding more ‘value’ in return for their legal spend” and have high service expectations when they work with an attorney.[3] Legal insurance can help attorneys provide this higher level of service without adding more work to their already-overflowing plates.

Interested in learning more about how legal insurance can partner with you and other legal industry leaders in your state? Download ARAG’s new white paper, The Future of Legal Is Now: How Legal Insurance Is a Solution to the Access to Justice Problem in America.

About the Author

Nicolle Schippers is the Associate General Counsel and Legal Industry Advocate at ARAG. Nicolle received her Bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University, and attended Drake University Law School in Des Moines where she received her Juris Doctorate degree. Nicolle is a published author whose work has been featured in legal publications such as the ACC Docket and Law Practice Today.

[1] Ambrogi, Robert. “Exclusive: New Nationwide Legal Insurance Plan Aims to Reduce the Justice Gap.” 7 Apr. 2016. http://www.lawsitesblog.com/2016/04/exclusive-new-nationwide-legal-insurance-plan-aims-reduce-justice-gap.html.

[2] Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States.” Commission on the Future of Legal Services: American Bar Association, 2016.

[3] ”2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market.” Georgetown Law Center for the Study of the Legal Profession, 2016.

©2017 ARAG North America, Inc.                                                                                                                            400029

Texas Bar Journal announces 2017 Short Story Contest winners

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 14:47

Thank you to the 36 writers who submitted entries to the Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest this year.

To keep the contest fair and impartial, author names were removed from each entry. Two panels of judges faced the challenging task of selecting the winners, and for each round, the same evaluation form was used for consistency. Eleven entries advanced to the final round, which was judged by Mike Farris of Dallas, Amanda Moore of Austin, and Stephanie Tillman of Houston.

The winner, “The Peacemaker,” by Gregg Mayer, earned the highest number of points.

Please congratulate these attorney-authors for making it through the competitive first round of judging to the finals.

“The Peacemaker,” by Gregg Mayer (First Place)

“Johnny Flash,” by Login Simmons (Second Place)

“On Behalf of Themselves,” by Mary Lou Jones (Third Place)

“The Black Button,” by Michael R. Dreeben

“Confidentiality,” by David Jones

“Boxes,” by Lane D. Thibodeaux

“Termination,” by Rosanne Gordon

“Deserted City,” by Erane “Raney” LaSusa

“The Case of Buster the Bull,” by Susan I. Paquet

“Personnel Files,” by Ron Satija

“The Last Exit,” by Jennifer Soldano

Here’s an excerpt from “The Peacemaker”:

The lawyers were all dead. Luther Millenford liked it that way because that meant he was in control. Today, he was going to set right a wrong. He was going to the Peacemaker.

It had been 43 years since a lawyer had set foot in any of the thousands of courthouses across the country, buildings that were now converted into restaurants, museums, or—in many cases—razed. The Peacemaker was a monolithic mainframe computer housed in Washington, D.C. It was connected by a vast network throughout the United States, installed with programming that contained every fact, the reasoning, conclusions, and dissents of every known legal case from every reported state and federal decision since 1847, updated as recently as last week. It was a spectacular achievement: the centralization, modernization of the law.

The entire story, along with the second and third place winning entries, will be published in the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

Scholarships available to criminal law attorneys interested in conferences

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 18:29

The State Bar of Texas Criminal Justice Section has announced that a record $30,000 in scholarships will be available to criminal law practitioners who would like to attend any of the following criminal justice conferences in San Antonio, Houston, Austin, or Fort Worth within the next few months:

·      30th Annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course (San Antonio, June 22-24)

·      Criminal Law Boot Camp 101 (Houston, July 16)

·      43rd Annual Advanced Criminal Law Seminar (Houston, July 17-20)

·      43rd Annual Advanced Criminal Law Seminar and Boot Camp 101 (Houston, July 16-20)

·      Video Presentations for Advanced Criminal Law Seminar (Austin, Sept. 6-8; Fort Worth, Sept. 13-15)

·      TDCAA Annual Conference (San Antonio, Sept. 20-22)

Eligible practitioners will be selected to attend a seminar they would otherwise not be able to afford because of financial constraints. Those whose offices will pay for them to attend are not eligible for the scholarship.

Attorneys who have been licensed five years or less are preferred. Applicants must include a letter of recommendation from a judge they have appeared before during the past six months and one from another lawyer in good standing with the State Bar of Texas.

The deadline to apply is May 19 at 5 p.m. Download the application online and send to sections@texasbar.com.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation launches new endowment fund

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 08:15

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation launched the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services to ensure Texas veterans have access to free legal help as they transition to civilian life. 

“We are proud to continue the legacy of legal legend Joe Jamail by dedicating these funds to providing free legal assistance to the individuals who have fought for our freedom,” said Terry Tottenham, chair of the endowment committee of the TAJF board of directors, in a press release.

Texas has the country’s second-highest population of veterans, according to the release. And legal issues make up five of the top 10 unmet needs of homeless veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Access to free legal services can be critical for veterans who support themselves and their families. TAJF funds 15 non-profit organizations in Texas that help veterans facing civil legal matters such as denial of medical care, disabilities, family law, benefits denial, and others. Each year, free legal services help more than 8,000 veterans, according to the press release.

“Joe Jamail was one of our greatest trial lawyers,” said Houston attorney and Jamail protégé Richard Mithoff, who created the fund. “But before he was a lawyer, he was a Marine. This endowment honors Joe’s commitment to justice and his commitment to veterans.”

Brewster County summons the Force for Jury Appreciation Week

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 15:00


On May 4, students from Alpine, Marathon, and San Vicente high schools were chosen as jurors to decide the fate of Luke Skywalker.

When we last saw the Jedi knight, he was exiled on a seaside cliff—bearded and in a hooded robe like old Ben Kenobi. But unlike his Jedi Master, Skywalker, who famously fired the shot that destroyed the original Death Star, has now been charged with 1,179,293 counts of murder for the lives lost on the dwarf planet-sized galactic superlaser.When Rey, the scavenger-turned-Resistance-fighter of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, met Skywalker, she hands him his lightsaber—along with a court summons.

Of course, this isn’t the plot of the next installment in the Star Wars franchise; rather, this is the premise of a mock jury selection hosted by real-life Judge Roy B. Ferguson, of the 394th Judicial District Court in Brewster County.

Each year, the judge hosts mock jury selections during Jury Appreciation Week, which is the first week of May. High school juniors and seniors across far west Texas receive a summons to appear in court for questioning as possible jurors.

The goal: beefing up low jury turnout in a region of Texas where that number can be as scant as 15 percent, according to Ferguson. By introducing and familiarizing students with the jury system so that they aren’t afraid of the courtroom, they will be more likely to show up after receiving a summons, he said.



Champions of Justice Gala raises over $560,000 for veterans

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 14:46

Efrén C. Olivares (right) of the South Texas Civil Rights Project accepts the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground award Wednesday from Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht. Photo courtesy of Hannah Day Photography.

The 2017 Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans raised $560,200 to help provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans.

The eighth annual gala, held Wednesday in Austin, has raised more than $3 million since its inception. The State Bar of Texas underwrites the event to ensure that proceeds go to helping veterans get legal assistance.

Highlights of the 2017 gala included a keynote presentation by former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, and the official launch of the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services. Houston attorney Richard Mithoff created the endowment fund in honor of the late Joe Jamail, a longtime supporter of the gala and of legal services to the poor in Texas.

Efrén C. Olivares, who directs the Racial and Economic Justice Program at the South Texas Civil Rights Project, accepted the James B. Sales Boots on the Ground award for his work on behalf of low-income Texans.

Read the news release from the Texas Access to Justice Commission and visit the commission’s Flickr page for photos.

Harris County legal professionals awarded for pro bono service

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 10:45

The Harris County judiciary and Houston Bar Association presented the 2017 Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards to area law firms and an attorney for their service to local low-income residents. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht gave the keynote address at the May 3 event, which was held at the Harris County Civil Courthouse.

This year’s winners are:


  • Baker Botts – Large Firm
  • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius – Mid-size Firm
  • Trahan Dinn Kornegay Payne – Small Firm
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation Law Department – Corporation
  • Hannah D. Sibiski – Individual


The program was established not only to recognize outstanding pro bono work but to encourage further legal services to low-income Harris County residents